Music is essential to the human experience, but the world does not always provide an ideal listening environment. Here is where the Braven BRV-X portable speaker comes into play. It provides plenty of sound in a compact build that has been ruggedized to resist the elements, insuring that the party need not stop on Mother Nature’s behalf. That’s a big promise from this small package. Does it meet our expectations?
The Braven BRV-X portable Bluetooth speaker has some strong sound for its size. Bass hold its presence at almost any level and can really boom when you kick it up to higher volumes. Music is clear in the upper frequency ranges but gets a bit muddy at times. The overall sound isn’t going to blow anyone away, but the BRV-X is surprisingly musical. The speaker’s sound profile definitely suits music with a more modern, compressed, bass-heavy mix. Classic rock and older tunes can sound a bit flat.
As with most speakers of this class, the BRV-X lacks any onboard tone controls. One feature the BRV-X does boast is an indoor/outdoor switch, which, as described in the speaker’s manual, provides a sound “[boost] to carry further and louder in outdoor settings.” In reality, this switch seems to do little more then accentuate treble frequencies while attenuating the bass when switched to outdoor mode. The result is music that is indeed slightly louder than its indoor counterpart, but it can sound a bit harsh while lacking robust tone. This actually does alright in outdoor settings when the music bleeds into the background, but we’d avoid this setting when looking for a simple all-around volume boost.
Speaking of volume, we do wish the Braven BRV-X could get a bit louder. We understand the limitations of its size, but this particular speaker seems to be one of the quieter ones we have tested. Having said that, it still gets some decent volume and should be perfectly adequate as a party speaker, especially for a summer BBQ or day at the beach.
While the audio experience of the Braven BRV-X is a little on the pedestrian side, this portable speaker makes up for it with its rugged construction. The BRV-X is IPX5 certified. If you recall in our discussion of the waterproof features of the Galaxy S5, this means the BRV-X carries an IP rating of 5 in regards to water resistance. The BRV-X won’t survive complete submersion under water, but it will be fine in rain and won’t flinch from a bit of pool-side splashing.
The BRV-X is comprised mostly of plastic and rubber with a bit of metal mixed in (the speaker grill appears to be metal, at least, but we can’t say for sure). The design should be able to handle light drops and definitely will survive the rigor of being tossed in a bag and toted around.
A plastic cap covers all the sensitive ports, connections, and secondary buttons and switches when not in use (for water protection) while the main controls are featured on the four corners of the top of the device for easy access. These controls — volume up, volume down, power, and playback — can be hard to see in the dark but are located easily enough. With the four buttons numerous commands and functions can be completed.
One final touch that was appreciated was the inclusion of a tie-down/carrying strap. The strap attaches to clips on either side of the speaker and can be used to tote the device around or to secure it to another object. Water resistance + tied-down strap = we are taking this one out on the boat.
The little things that go a long way
The BRV-X’s tie-down strap is just one of the little extras that adds to the charm of Braven’s little speaker. Two other features add some allure to what otherwise might be considered a fairly average Bluetooth sound machine: NFC support and external charging.
NFC support isn’t new to speaker’s of this class, but it’s a great thing to have. Not all phones have NFC support, but, if you happen to own one that does, pairing is as simple as tapping it on the BRV-X’s NFC logo (make sure Bluetooth is turned on). It eliminates the hassle from what can sometimes be an annoying process searching for devices via the Bluetooth settings menu and pairing manually.
But, as we said, NFC is by no means a game changing feature. Perhaps external charging isn’t, either, but we were glad to have it on the BRV-X. You can attach any device that charges via a USB cable and get some added juice while you jam. Now you don’t have to worry about a dead phone killing the party. The drawback here is the fact that charging your device now drains the speaker’s battery at a faster rate. Braven has packed a fat 5200mAh battery inside to make sure there is sufficient power for both the speaker and external devices, however.
One feature that might get overlooked is the ability to pair two BRV-X speakers to create a true stereo soundscape. This is a novel concept and will take some of the strain off each individual speaker, allowing for greater clarity, volume, and dynamics. At $200 a pop, though, the money is better spent on a better stereo speaker setup. Still a clutch feature if you have a friend who also owns the BRV-X.
The BRV-X can also double as a pretty loud speakerphone and its controls can be used to answer incoming calls. Again, this feature has become pretty standard for speakers of this class so we aren’t giving Braven’s offering too many points here, but it functioned about as well as we could have hoped for.
The bottom line
If you didn’t notice the recurring theme here, the Braven BRV-X excels as an outdoor speaker providing the background music to a day on the water, a cookout, or some lounging by the pool. The BRV-X is not the centerpiece to your next raging dance party. The sound quality falls slightly short and volume begins to be an issue in noisier settings. Rugged construction and resistance to water make it a great speaker to tow along on your other adventures, however.
Is it worth the $200 Braven is asking for it? At that price, it’s worth checking out competition from Jabra, Jambox, and others just to see what you are really getting, but we’d say the Braven BRV-X is right there holding its own with the rest of the pack.
- Rugged construction and water resistance great for outdoor use
- NFC for easy pairing
- Charges your phone
- Not as loud as we would have liked
- Sound is a bit flat/muddy at times
Overall Score: 3.5/5
Why would I want a speaker that is any more ruggedized than my phone?
Because your phone can return to safety in your bag while the speaker rests precariously on the end of your lounge chair.
Get the Philips BR-1X instead. It lacks NFC, external charging, and an IP rating, but gains the ability to daisy chain and charge with micro USB instead of requiring a separate adapter. Has a rubber casing and strap with the same outdoor/indoor mode for about a third of the price at $80.